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PHIL 2810 Lecture Notes - Categorical Imperative, Political Philosophy, Social Contract

Course Code
PHIL 2810
Kristin Borgerson

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January 15th, 2013
9:59 AM
Hypothetical imperative
"if you want to do well in the course, you ought to do your readings before the class"
Categorical imperative
Applies to you all the time, because you have the capacity to reason
o You're bound to all kinds of ought claims because they are "moral laws"
Universalizing test
What would happen if everybody did this as well?
o Cutting line to bathroom example
Political philosophy: Rawls
o The theory of justice
His concern was to outline what the basic outline of society to look like if we want it to
be just
This is most important to get right, because we can then work on the details after that
o Idea is to design from scratch a well ordered society
You know that you have if everybody has bought into the principles of justice that
satisfy that society, and knows the basic structure of their society has been designed
in line with those principles
If we get all this done, then we can say the authority of the state is justifiable
Social contract theory
It starts from one basic insight, which is the moral equality of human beings
o Means we are not naturally subordinate to other human being or groups of humans
o If we aren't, then how can naturally free and equal people be legitimately governed?
o So why as individuals in a society buy into a concept that other people govern us? And what
would justify this government, and our obligations to it?
Social contract theory sets up hypothetical scenario where citizens get together and set up a social
contract that is to govern a state
o All set up and agree on basic structure of the society
o This starts by taking recognition of the different kinds and views of the 'good life'
So people have to agree to disagree about all sorts of different things, reasonably
disagree of course about how they perceive the 'good life'
So we need to set up society where the agreement to disagree is ok
Fact of reasonable pluralism
o We recognize that other people might reasonably disagree with us, and we recognize the
need to agree to disagree
John Rawls
Is providing us with an ideal theory, why?
o Gives us accountable well ordered society
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